This Safety and Health Information Bulletin is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. The Bulletin is advisory in nature, informational in content, and is intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. Pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers must comply with hazard-specific safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, pursuant to Section 5(a)(1), the General Duty Clause of the Act, employers must provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
Forklift truck operators must look in the direction of travel and keep the forklift under control at all times. One of the potential hazards faced by standup forklift operators is the crushing hazard that can arise when traveling, with the forks trailing, in a warehouse near a storage rack or similar obstruction. The risk is that a horizontal rack beam (crossbar) or similar obstruction might enter the operator's compartment in a situation referred to as "under-ride." This Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) discusses ways to reduce the crushing hazard to the operator associated with under-ride. Awareness of the precautions and safety measures highlighted in this SHIB can help prevent serious injuries and fatalities related to warehouse operations.
The purpose of this SHIB is to:
A forklift "under-ride" hazard arises when the forklift operator travels with the forks trailing and backs up toward the storage rack. If the operator drives the forklift too far, so that the forklift passes beneath the horizontal crossbar (i.e., the operator creates an "under-ride"), the crossbar can enter the operator's compartment and crush the operator inside the compartment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Integrated Management Information System data for the period of 1993 through 2008 indicate that at least nine employees have been killed and three employees sustained severe crushing injuries when operating a standup forklift in reverse. These forklifts did not have a protective rear guard or corner post to prevent under-ride from occurring.
The OSHA Cleveland Area Office investigated a fatality at a warehouse where a standup forklift operator was found pinned between the lower horizontal crossbar of a storage-rack shelving system and the interior of the operator's compartment. The horizontal crossbar of the shelving system was 55 inches(140 centimeters) above the floor, while the top surface of the operator's compartment was only 49 inches (124 centimeters) above the floor. This left a space of 6 inches (15 centimeters) between the crossbar and the top surface of the operator's compartment. Although the forklift had an overhead guard, the shelving rack was not positioned at the same level as the guard to prevent the under-ride from occurring. When the operator traveled with the forks trailing, the forklift passed under the crossbar, which struck the operator above the waist and pinned his torso against a part of the operator's compartment. The operator died of asphyxiation injuries.
Proper training is essential to the safe operation of powered industrial trucks. Paragraph (l) of OSHA's Powered Industrial Trucks Standard, 29 CFR 1910.178, contains training and certification requirements for the use of forklifts that are specific to the workplace. The standard requires employers to develop and implement a training program for all operators based on the general principles of safe truck operation; the types of vehicles being used in the workplace, including the instructions, warnings, and precautions found in the operator's manual; the hazards of the workplace created by the use of the vehicle; and the general safety requirements of the OSHA standard.
The following recommendations will reduce the risk of under-ride hazards associated with operating standup forklifts.
Employers should evaluate their worksite to determine if an under-ride hazard exists. If there are rack crossbars or similar obstructions in the facility, the employer should take one or more of the following actions:
Note: It is a violation of Federal law for anyone UNDER 18 years of age to operate a forklift in nonagricultural employment. (See OSHA Safety and Health Bulletin 03-09-30, Protecting Young Workers: Prohibition Against Young Workers Operating Forklifts.)
Minimizing the potential for serious or fatal injuries to standup forklift operators is the primary concern of this SHIB. Following the safe work practices recommended in this SHIB, and training employees as required in OSHA regulations, will help accomplish this goal.
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